Call it a regression to the mean, the Madden Curse or just a case of putrid luck, there is a very good chance that Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis could miss his second game in just six weeks of the 2011 NFL season. While a perpetually discussed case of strep kept Hillis out of the Week 3 win over the Miami Dolphins, this time the brusing back is being hindered by a hamstring issue which occurred midway through the team’s recent loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Whether or not last year’s team rushing leader can play this week against Seattle is one question; the Browns just hope that this strained muscle doesn’t linger beyond this small window of days as history is certainly not on Hillis’ side.
From the blog of the Canton Repository’s Steve Doerschuk:
Three muscles make up the hamstring, the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus and the biceps femoris. One word, perhaps, descibes the potential for Peyton Hillis’ hamstring injury: Trouble.
Hillis was emerging as one of the top surprises in the NFL in 2008 when a torn hamstring ended his run. [...]
Broncos fans were hooked when he hit Eric Mangini’s Jets for 129 yards on 22 carries one week later. He just kept getting better every week, even as opponents got more film to study. He was on his way to another big game a week later, with 58 yards on his first eight carries against the Chiefs. Late in the first half, he jumped to make a cricus catch and was pounced on by defensive backs Jarrad Page and Brandon Carr. His right foot got stuck. His hamstring got mangled. He missed the last three games with the hamstring tear.
The Broncos started that 2008 season with an 8-5 record; Hillis was just earning the respect of the man who drafted him, Mike Shannahan. Following the injury, Denver would lose the final three games, Shannahan would be fired and the rest is history – history that resulted in then-head coach Josh McDaniels parting with Hillis for a few Subway giftcards and a wholesale-sized bag of EAS whey protein.
While the first chapter of Hillis’ rejuvenated career was roses, the Browns have found themselves dealing with an off-field circus regarding agents and contracts and viruses while the on-field product has not proven to be worth the extracurriculars: 60 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns, nearly a full yard-per-carry less than what the Arkansas product provided in 2010 in the smashmouth and borderline conservative play-calling of former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Heading into Thursday’s practice, Hillis has yet to participate in the week’s activities. Head coach Pat Shurmur hopes that 250-pound fan favorite can do some light running heading into the weekend, but have appeared to shift most of their run-game focus on to second-year back Montario Hardesty who has also dealt with his fair share of lower-body injuries. As an insurance policy of sorts, the team recently added running back Chris Ogbonnaya from Houston’s practice squad.
Ogbonnaya has a history with Browns quarterback Colt McCoy from their days at Texas University as well as working with Pat Shurmur through two training camps in St. Louis. At 6-feet, 220 pounds, Ogbonnaya is almost a physical clone of Hardesty and will also be used in the passing game. Hopes are that Ogbonnaya’s work as a wide receiver in Texas prior to moving to running back (the reverse Greg Little) will provide McCoy with another set of reliable hands, something that has plagued this Browns team through the first five weeks. Or 12 years.
Naturally, if Hillis is healthy and the Browns opt to sign the running back to a contract extension, all of the responsibility lands firmly in the court of No. 40. It seems that the team will look to see if the former rectifies itself before they continue on with the latter; Lord knows this all can’t be rectified soon enough.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy